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Diminutive Luxembourg City is certainly not the smallest capital city in Europe. Indeed, it is a dozen times larger than Vaduz which serves as the pristine, albeit rather sterile, capital of Liechtenstein. Luxembourg City deserves to be much better known, and it is a great spot to stop off and relax for a day or two during a long tour of Europe.
A great location
Few other European capitals boast such a distinctive location as Luxembourg City. Berne and Ljubljana spring to mind as possible candidates, but Luxembourg City has the edge over both.
The gorges that divide the city are just spectacular, creating some wonderful vistas. It is not for nothing that the Chemin de la Corniche is often dubbed “le plus beau balcon d’Europe” – Europe’s most beautiful balcony. Two rivers, the Pétrusse and the Alzette, join in Luxembourg. Both have carved deeply incised gorges thus making Luxembourg a city defined by dramatic topography.
Exploring the ramparts
There is a great one-hour wander that takes in the key sights and the spectacular neck of high terrain that juts south with the two rivers far below on either side. The walk skirts the restrained late-Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral to reach Plateau du Saint-Esprit, from where there is a superb panorama. Then it’s an easy walk north along the Corniche to the rocky fortifications of the Bock.
If steep climbs are not your thing, don’t worry. The deep valleys that bisect the center of Luxembourg City are traversed by high-level bridges, and a free elevator from Plateau du Saint-Esprit will whisk you down into the bottom of the Alzette Valley in a matter of seconds.
So, despite the topography, Luxembourg is actually a good city for cycling. Vélo en Ville (at 8 Bisserweg) is good for bike rental. In addition there are Vel’oh stations around town where you can pick up a bike.
Luxembourg is blessed with some fine walking country, and it is easy to escape the compact capital. There are excellent bus and train services. The finest rail journey is the one-hour run north from Luxembourg City towards the Belgian border. Clervaux is a good place to stop off for an hour or two.
Travel tickets are extremely cheap throughout Luxembourg. A one-day Dagesbilljee Letzebuerg gives unlimited travel on the day of purchase (and until 8 a.m. next morning) on trains and buses throughout the Grand Duchy. It costs €4. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Billjee Weekend for €6 gives a group of up to five free run of the entire country for a day.
Luxembourg is easy to reach. There are frequent direct trains from Paris (2hrs 10mins), Brussels (3hrs) and Cologne (3hrs 20 mins).